‘One man’s love is another man’s strength.’
A twenty-year veteran of the police force, Carson Mackenzie has worked hard to carve his niche in a demanding environment where stress is the operative word. Thanks to his occupation, he’s never relied on anyone, not even his husband Stephen until he’s involved in a severe car accident while on duty one night. His recovery isn’t smooth; reoccurring nightmares of the crash play havoc with his mental health and he starts to experience a new kind of stress—something he’s never dealt with, anxiety.
Adding to his problems, Dudley Kramer corners him in a restaurant, a shady art dealer who almost ruined his marriage and career once before. Arrogant and self-serving, Dudley wants sex and he’ll do whatever it takes. Too ashamed to ask for help, he tries to handle the situation alone but quickly discovers the art dealer won’t take no for an answer.
Dudley’s complaint had come as a shock, and I was still stupefied from it when I shut the door to Leland’s office. I couldn’t figure out why Dudley had pinned it on Stephen, what he’d hoped to accomplish. Before I could rationalize my actions, I strode to the basement and got in my cruiser and the blurred scenery of a city submersed in white darted past the windshield. I was way out of my jurisdiction.
Parking on a side street neatly tucked from view of the main road, I put on my hat, shut the door and trudged the incline of cracked cement toward the upper sidewalk. To my right, I opened the door to the gallery and bells jingled. The central area was quiet. Paintings and various pieces art were bathed in soft light while the rest were subdued in a murky darkness. The bar sparkled with the reflection of pot lighting on liquor bottles and glassware.
“Well, well, well…. What do we have here?” Dudley emerged, cigarette in hand, from between a pair of pastels suspended from the ceiling. “Carson Mackenzie is in my gallery and in uniform. I think I’ve died and gone to heaven. You should’ve called first so I could prepare.”
“It’s Constable Mackenzie to you.”
“I see.” He grinned, his lascivious gaze once again ravaging me from head to toe. “Fine, I’ll play nice.”
It appeared we were alone, but I kept my back to the wall just the same, ensuring I had an unobstructed view of every angle. “I’m here because we need to talk.”
“It’s a little late for that, isn’t it?” He took a drag and sat on a stool at the bar. “We talked yesterday and we both know how well that went.”
“This is personal,” I said in a low voice. “Playing my shadow is one thing, but harassing Stephen and then lodging a complaint against him when you’re the one at fault is completely another. I want you to leave him out of this.”
“So, that’s why you’re here. Well, I’ve got a news flash for you, Constable Mackenzie,” he sneered, mashing the cigarette in a crystal ashtray on the bar. “We all live in the same fucking city and if I want to sue your sugar daddy, I will. If I want to lodge a complaint concerning your less-than professional-behavior, I will. You got physical the other day, not me. Maybe you should keep your anger in check, then there wouldn’t have been a fucking problem to begin with!”
The anger came on swift and before I realized, I had Dudley rammed against the bar by his throat, immobilized, and I was breathing in his face. He immediately put both hands up and tilted his head back, going limp in my grip.
“I wasn’t asking,” I growled at his cheek, twisting the scruff of his neck, “I was telling. Stick your nose in my relationship one more time—cause me any more grief at work—and it’ll be the last time you do it. I can make your life very uncomfortable…get my drift?” I backed off, gradually releasing him. “I haven’t worn this uniform and gone through hell all these years to be intimidated by a sniveling prick like you. Stay out of my life!”
He must’ve taken the threat seriously because he was instantly humbled. “Okay,” he said with humility. “Point taken. I need to set my sights on someone else.”
“I’m glad we’ve come to an understanding.”
I’d come that close to putting Dudley Kramer in the hospital and losing everything. It hadn’t been the most intelligent move on my part, but I couldn’t handle another second of the slimy bastard’s bullshit.
Adjusting my hat, I glanced around the gallery and exited the building. The noise of the city clobbered my senses: traffic, people, and rain battering the pavement. I inhaled the damp, crisp air deeply and got inside my cruiser, dropping my hat on the passenger seat. The rain pelted the windshield and roof to a deafening beat, dampening the voice from dispatch. I turned up the volume. There was a robbery in process. Listening intently, I started the car.
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